What is a power surge?

As its name suggests, a power surge simply means a surge or increase of power. The brief spike in electrical voltage range from minor to severe and certainly do some damage. Major surges can damage your TV, laptop or desktop computer, while minor surges may cause no apparent damage but can wear down and take toll on your electrical devices over time.

Power surges occur when the flow of electricity is interrupted, then started again, or when something sends a surge of electricity flowing back into the system. Electronics and appliances are especially susceptible to a power surge, but spikes in power can also damage outlets or start an electrical fire, so this is the most dangerous.

lightning power surge

What causes a power surge?

A power surge can occurs for many reasons. One of the most obvious would be an electrical storm or lightning strike. A lightning strike doesn’t have to occur near you to cause a spike in your electrical current. In actual fact, lightning striking close to a power line can cause a spike. A single strike of lightning can caused a strong enough spike to burn out a computer router, monitor and even your television.

Often when high power electrical devices are turned on they can create a spike in the electrical current when they’re switched on or when their motors kick in. Refrigerators, air conditioners and even space heaters can cause a power sure strong enough to damage electrical systems.

Some other commons causes of a power surge are bad or faulty wiring in your home or business, tree limbs touching power lines and animals getting into electrical equipment or damaging your wiring

How does a power surge cause damage

During a power surge, the voltage can exceed the peak voltage of your electrical appliances of 240 volts. A spike in voltage can thus be detrimental to appliances and electrical devices in your home or business. Increasing the voltage about your appliances normal operating voltage can cause an arc of electrical current within the appliance, and the heat generated in the arc can cause damage to the electrical components and electronic circuit boards.

This is especially important when it comes to a commercial or industrial premises, as oftentimes the electrical equipment used can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and it can be very sensitive. Any downtime caused by damage from a power surge can be very costly for businesses.

Can a surge protector protect from power surges?

Most people just buy a surge protector, plug it in and that is as much as they worry about. However the bad news is that the typical surge protector is not strong enough to protect your appliances and electronics from a lightning strike. The best thing to do if you’re in the midst of an electrical storm is to unplug your computer and any other expensive appliances, such as your flat screen TV. In a commercial premises it is recommended you look at lightning protection or further surge protection, especially when high value commercial or industrial equipment is at stake.

A surge protector will assist in protecting against the more normal fluctuations that are seen on your electricity network on a daily basis, so they are not to be totally discounted. If an electrical spike does occur, the surge protector is there to absorb any excess energy, redirecting it towards the grounding wire in your home – instead of letting it get to your appliances.

In all new house or commercial premises built, safety switches are now mandatory in Australia. However older buildings will not have these. If you do not have safety switches it is recommended you look at a switchboard upgrade.

Keeping your home safe from power surges

There are a number of things you can do to minimise the risk of power surges in your home or business

Electrical systems can differ considerably from home to business, as can their associated risks. Expert knowledge is perhaps the best kind of protection against power surges in the home. Contact a professional electrician to find out how you can protect your home and electrical equipment from damage from electrical surges.

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